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Shameik Blackshear suffers another setback; high praise for Taylor Stallworth, D.J. Wonnum

News and notes from Thursday afternoon’s practice.

NCAA Football: Birmingham Bowl-South Florida vs South Carolina Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

By all accounts, Shameik Blackshear was supposed to be a dynamic player at defensive end for South Carolina. The Bluffton product was the #2 player in his class in the state behind Clemson’s Albert Huggins (Orangeburg-Wilkinson) and the #10 weakside DE in the country. SB Nation’s Bud Elliott was very high on him three years ago during the recruiting process.

Unfortunately, it just hasn’t worked out for Blackshear since he came on campus. He was able to gain a medical redshirt despite playing in two games in 2015 after a knee injury suffered as a senior in high school held him back. In late December of that year, he was critically wounded after being shot near a USC student housing complex. He was eventually able to recover enough to appear in nine games in 2016, crediting a newly-found Christian faith as part of that process.

Now comes more bad news: the redshirt sophomore has suffered a concussion and will be out indefinitely, according to DL coach Lance Thompson. With much attention being paid to player safety and head injury, it’s certainly something that will be closely monitored. Hopefully Blackshear is able to recover from this latest challenge and finally show the full potential that he has been expected to bring to the program.

Stallworth called a “SEC top-level player”; Wonnum getting high marks

Big Taylor Stallworth is one of several players the Gamecocks are counting on in 2017 to help the pass rush hit the next level. Stallworth had three tackles for a loss and a sack last year and is projected to start alongside Ulric Jones at DT on opening day.

Thompson talked up Stallworth after Thursday’s practice.

Taylor, without a doubt, is a special guy, SEC top level player. He needs to play really well for us and play a lot for us...Last year, he had the (pectoral injury). This year, he is more healthy. He’s a smart guy, strong fella, has good feet, plays with good pad level, plays square to the line of scrimmage.

Another player receiving some praise is D.J. Wonnum. Wonnum was one of those freshmen forced into action last year, but did very well as part of the defensive end rotation. This is definitely a key year for him as he looks to assert himself as one of the top DEs in the SEC.

Travaris Robinson was very complimentary of the sophomore during his media availability on Thursday.

(He) has really, really impressed me. He’s very good with his hands. He’s a very conscientious kid. He knows what to do. He knows how to do it and the way it should be done. He’s a really good player and a really good person.

It bears mentioning that a couple of players that Robinson invoked that could figure into the pass rush this year were freshmen Aaron Sterling and Brad Johnson. We mentioned yesterday that Johnson should see the bulk of his time this year at BUCK (DE/LB hybrid), while Sterling, the former Alabama commit, stands to feature in the rotation as well.